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A Change for the Better

A Personal Vignette by Rena Zingmond

What was I thinking? I must have lost my mind … absolutely lost my mind. These thoughts and my carry-on luggage were my only company as I stared out the window during the five-hour plane ride from Los Angeles to New York. I was 17 and on my way to summer camp, the first time attending this particular camp, and knowing not a soul there. Why I had even decided to embark on such an uncharacteristic adventure was a mystery.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

butterflyThis type of anxiety is familiar enough in the gamut of human experiences to be pretty understandable. What if nobody likes me? What if New Yorkers’ culture is vastly different from mine (hard to imagine, I know)? What if I’m miserable and stuck there, isolated, for an impossibly long month?

This alone could be enough to cause any teenager to be petrified, but one additional detail acted as the icing on the cake. I was undoubtedly, incredibly, painfully shy. I preferred backgrounds to foregrounds, reaction to acting proactively, books to people. Oh, I didn’t like the fact that I felt trapped by insecurity and I desperately wished I could conquer my fears, but the safety of reticence was so much more attractive than the risk incurred by putting myself “out there.” I longed to be popular and hated being a voiceless nobody.

I had always had friends. That was the miracle of it all; my class size had always been very small, consisting of around 20 students. And even then the miracle persisted — my classmates were quite down-to-earth, even the ones considered to be more popular. I was never bullied, never teased or ostracized. My two best friends, one being the most popular and the other the brain of the class, thought nothing of these titles and viewed me as equally worthy of friendship through my own merit. What they clearly had, though, was something of vital importance to any preteen: perfectly straight, cooperative hair. I was not so fortunate. My hair defied gravity like an experiment at NASA. It was frizzy, it was big, and it was not interested in suggestions. I had no clue how to manage it and the self-confidence to match. My appearance seemed to speak louder than my timid personality, though the message it touted was not one I was proud to advertise. This was my middle school experience in a nutshell.


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